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Monday 21 January 2019
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A long, hot campaign

WHILE there was much repetition of themes from previous speeches, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s address to the nation had a reinvigorated look and a novel two-day format which begs the question: Have we witnessed the launch of the PNM’s campaign for the next general election?

Not only did the Prime Minister incorporate the use of graphs and colourful charts, but his address was taped before an audience, reportedly at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.

Addresses to the nation are traditionally staid affairs and the Prime Minister may have been encouraged to embrace a facelift. Was the Prime Minister advised to make changes in light of the forthcoming local government election? Or was Rowley signalling his intention to put the PNM on a strong footing in the event of an early general election?

What is clear is that it is the beginning of a long, hot summer on the road to 2020.

The UNC political leader has begun a process of meeting individually with key members and yesterday batted down reports of a unilateral shake-up on the Opposition front benches. Yet, the Prime Minister’s own shake-up of the address to the nation format seems to have raised more uncomfortable questions than provide answers.

All prime ministers are accountable to the country as a whole and, as such, an address to the nation is meant to be something that has a distinct tenor from a political platform speech. Rowley cannot allow himself to fall into the trap of using state resources to campaign politically.

Questions must be asked about the nature of the event that was televised. Was it a party event that was deemed fit for national consumption then repurposed? Who were the audience members? Were they a random assortment of citizens? How were they invited? In short, was this an address to the nation or a political advertisement?

The projects and plans announced by the Prime Minister, in the context of our economic realities, also lead one to question how these matters will be implemented. Is enough funding available to see these projects through?

Finally, it should be said all incoming governments inherit the problems left by previous governments. Indeed, the decision of an electorate to vote out a government suggests citizens do not feel problems are being addressed.

In a sense, governments are by definition voted in to fix pre-existing problems. So, when will the blame game played by both parties end?

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